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There's a Hole in My Bucket..!

Microsoft makes mistakes. It’s a statement that many of us would take for granted but to hear it suggested by Stuart Okin, Microsoft’s Chief Security Office (CSO) in the UK, was enough to grab my interest.

Following my column on Palladium, Microsoft’s forthcoming security architecture, Stuart had invited me over to the Reading campus for lunch and a chat. More used to being beaten about the head with marketing slogans from a company in denial, I found Stuart’s argument in support of Microsoft’s latest security initiative, more lucid than anything I have heard to date.

Microsoft, it appears, is prepared to move heaven and earth to in its efforts to create a trusted computing environment. The company accepts that it still has a long way to go before it can win the level confidence that it would like from its customers. Microsoft can’t promise perfect security – can anyone? - but I’m told that it can promise steadily improving security and Stuart Okin is convinced that the ‘Trusted Computing’ strategy, launched by Bill Gates earlier in the year, is already beginning to show encouraging results.

That’s very nice, I hear you say, Microsoft has learned to spell ‘Trust’ as opposed to ‘Anti-trust’ but how much of this is hot air and how much of it can really be demonstrated in overall improvements and security enhancements to the Microsoft product line?

Stuart Okin tells me that there’s much to be positive about, even though this is very much work in progress; a kind of “Every day and in every way we’re getting better and better” mantra. He asks me what I think the company needs to do to win back confidence. The problem, I tell him, revolves around honest computing as much as trusted computing. I can’t think of anyone I know who would use honest in the same breath as Microsoft. Clever, perhaps but like the canny politician it is, Microsoft is defined by its voting record; great software and good with children but short on trust, the software kind of course. How, I ask, can we really be sure that this simply isn’t a huge public relations effort to keep the lid on the secure computing issue for as long as it possibly can?

All Microsoft can do, suggests Okin, is ask the world to look closely at the evidence. How rapidly the company is making improvements and dealing with problems when they occur. Surprisingly and to prove the willingness of the company, he offers me open and unrestricted access to the Microsoft security team, allowing me draw my own conclusions from what Microsoft is doing to build security into the software, rather than speculate on what I might think it might not be doing about the problem.

So, should I accept his invitation and go looking for the evidence? If I do will I emerge with my cynicism intact or will I return wearing a Microsoft t-shirt and a fixed grin, quietly mumbling ‘Every day and every way we’re doing better and better’?


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